Stereotypes can be harmful for women and men in gender-incongruent occupations (e.g., women in leadership roles, men in care-oriented roles). My research seeks to uncover how gender stereotypes vary across time and cultures and thereby contributes to a better understanding of how stereotypes change. In a similar way, inaccurate social perception can have negative outcomes for both individuals and groups. In my meta-analytical research, I study factors that determine how (in)accurately we perceive others in our everyday lives and why misogynistic media consumption has adverse attitudinal and behavioral consequences.
Eagly, A. H., Nater, C., Miller, D., Kaufmann, M., & Sczesny, S. (2020). Gender stereotypes have changed: A cross-temporal meta-analysis of U.S. public opinion polls from 1946-2018. American Psychologist, 75, 301-315. https://doi.org/10.1037/amp0000494
This meta-analysis integrated 16 nationally representative U.S. public opinion polls on gender stereotypes (N 30,093 adults), extending from 1946 to 2018, a span of seven decades that brought considerable change in gender relations, especially in women’s roles. In polls inquiring about communion (e.g., affectionate, emotional), agency (e.g., ambitious, courageous), and competence (e.g., intelligent, creative), respondents indicated whether each trait is more true of women or men, or equally true of both. Women’s relative advantage in communion increased over time, but men’s relative advantage in agency showed no change. Belief in competence equality increased over time, along with belief in female superiority among those who indicated a sex difference in competence. Contemporary gender stereotypes thus convey substantial female advantage in communion and a smaller male advantage in agency but also gender equality in competence along with some female advantage. Interpretation emphasizes the origins of gender stereotypes in the social roles of women and men.
Nater, C., Miller, D., Eagly, A. H., & Sczesny, S. (in prep.). Gender stereotypes vary across nations: A cross-cultural meta-analysis of representative public opinion polls. Progress: 80%, Target: PNAS.
Sczesny, S., Nater, C., & Eagly, A. H. (2019). Agency and communion: Their implications for gender stereotypes and gender identities. In A. E. Abele & B. Wojciszke (Eds.), Current Issues in Social Psychology: Agency and Communion in Social Psychology (pp. 103-116). New York, NY: Routledge.
Agency and communion represent the two fundamental modalities of human nature. These dimensions, the so-called Big Two, represent self- versus other-orientation. As stated by Abele and Wojciszke (2014, p. 196), "Agentic content refers to goal-achievement and task functioning (competence, assertiveness, decisiveness), whereas communal content refers to the maintenance of relationships and social functioning (benevolence, trustworthiness, morality)." These dimensions constitute meta-concepts of human values, motives, traits, and behaviors. As we explain in this chapter, agency and communion are essential to the analysis of gender stereotypes and identities and their consequences.
Sczesny, S.*, Nater, C.*, Rudman, L., Lohmore, A., Malayeri, S., Sakallı, N., Saxler, F., & Gustafsson Sendén, M. (in prep.). How women and men should (not) be: Gender rules and their alignment with status beliefs in seven nations. Progress: 90%
Nater, C., & Zell, E. (2015). Accuracy of social perception: An integration and review of meta-analyses. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 9, 481-494. https://doi.org/10.1111/spc3.12194
This review examines the overall accuracy of social perception across several research topics and identifies factors that influence the accuracy of social perception. Findings from 14 meta-analyses examining topics such as social/personality judgments, health judgments, legal judgments, and academic/vocational judgments were obtained. Social perception accuracy was generally moderate, yielding an average effect size (r) of .32. However, individual meta-analytic effects varied widely, with some topics yielding small effects (e.g., lie detection, eyewitness identification) and other topics yielding large effects (e.g., educational judgments, health judgments). Several moderators of social perception accuracy were identified, including the nature of the information source, familiarity of the target, type of personality trait, and severity of the outcome being judged. These findings provide a comprehensive summary and novel integration of disparate findings on the accuracy of social perception. Concluding remarks highlight avenues for future research and call for cross-disciplinary collaborations that would enhance our understanding of social perception.
Women in leadership and STEM
Women make up only 6% of CEOs in large companies (i.e., S&P 500; Catalyst, 2022). Such occupational segregation is known to hinder the inclusion of talented people, curtail economic growth, and thwart the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (World Economic Forum, 2020). In my research, I examine the effectiveness of gender diversity interventions that aim to increase women’s representation in leadership. Moreover, I aim to advance the understanding of how an inclusive organizational culture benefits women’s and men’s leadership behavior in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) organizations.
Understanding (unintentional) effects of organizational diversity interventions
Nater, C., Heilman, M. E., & Sczesny, S. (2022). Footsteps I would like to follow? How gender quotas affect the acceptance of women leaders as role models and inspirations for leadership. European Journal of Social Psychology, 53, 129-146. https://doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.2892
This research examines how the method of selecting women leaders affects other women’s leadership interest. Results of three experiments (N=1,015) indicated that only when women leaders were selected due to merit, not quota-based policies, did they boost female participants’ interest in a leadership position. These reactions were mediated by perceptions of the woman leader’s deservingness of her position (Study 1-3) and consequent acceptance as a role model (Study 2,3). Accordingly, success information validating quota-based selected leaders’ competence provided a boost in leadership interest equal to that of merit-based selected leaders (Study 2). For men, quota but not merit-based selected women leaders lowered interest in leadership due to their pessimistic assessment of the probability of being selected (Study 1). These results suggest that a wise implementation of quota regulations includes validating women’s competence so they are perceived as deserving of their leader roles and can thus serve as inspiring role models.
Nater, C., & Sczesny, S. (2016). Affirmative action policies in job advertisements for leadership positions: How they affect women’s and men’s inclination to apply. European Journal of Social Psychology, 46, 891-902. https://doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.2200
This research investigates how affirmative action policies in job advertisements for leadership positions affect women’s and men’s inclination to apply. Management students (N = 389) received advertisements that differed in the strictness of announced gender policies: no statement, women explicitly invited to apply, preferential treatment of equally qualified women, or quota of 40% women. When women were treated preferentially, female participants reported higher self-ascribed fit, which resulted in higher inclinations to apply compared with the control condition and with men. However, when quota regulations were active, female participants showed neither an increased self-ascribed fit nor higher inclinations to apply. Interestingly, the underlying mechanism was not different when a quota regulation or no statement was announced: participants with higher agency levels reported higher inclinations to apply owing to an increase in self-ascribed fit. This study provides evidence that only some preferential treatment policies may be successful in increasing women’s interest in leadership positions.
Nater, C., Eagly, A. H., Heilman, M. E., Messerli-Bürgy, N., & Sczesny, S. (under review). Emphasizing the Communal Demands of a Leader Role Makes Job Interviews Less Stressful for Women But not More Successful.
Zehnter, M., & Nater, C. (under review). Beyond Being Beneficiaries: Explaining Women’s More Favorable Explicit and Implicit Attitudes Towards Women Quotas.
Uncovering organizational culture's impact on behavior in STEM workplaces
Nater, C., Schmader, T., Koyama, J., Hall W. (in prep.). How an inclusive cultures affects women’s and men’s use of dominance-based leadership behavior
Nater, C., Cabrera, S., Schmader, T. (in prep.). Rolling towards gender equality in masculine STEM organizations: Effects of focal random selection on evaluations of women and men leaders.
Men in care-oriented careers
Only 7% of early childcare educators are men (U.S. data; OECD, 2020). An increased representation of men in healthcare, early education and domestic (HEED) careers would greatly benefit men, women, and society at large. For many men, disengagement with communal roles begins in childhood and continues into adulthood, constraining boys’ career preferences and men’s occupational choices. In this line of research, my collaborators and I identify obstacles to men’s engagement and lay out evidence-based recommendations for encouraging greater gender diversity in care-oriented careers.
Sczesny, S., Nater, C., & Haines, S. (2021). Perceived to be incompetent, but not a risk: Why men are evaluated as less suitable for childcare work than women. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 52, 693-703. https://doi.org/10.1111/jasp.12845
Men are widely underrepresented in early childhood education and care worldwide. Professional childcare is often believed to require communal qualities typically associated with the female gender role, like being sensitive to others' needs. Men's underrepresentation in childcare work likely occurs as a result of the perceived incongruity between communal qualities required for childcare work and agentic qualities associated with men and the male gender role. Using a between-subjects design, this research examined how personality traits (communal vs. agentic) of people interested in early childcare and their gender (woman vs. man) affect evaluations of their suitability for childcare work. This online experiment further investigated the potential underlying mechanisms—ascribed childcare competence and perceived risk of perpetrating child abuse—and tested whether these explanations contribute to men's less favorable evaluations. Results showed that participants (N = 242) evaluated the communal candidate as more suitable for childcare work than the agentic candidate, and the male candidate as less suitable than the female candidate. Structural equation modeling showed that lower ascribed childcare competence, but not greater perceived risk of perpetrating sexual or physical child abuse, contributed to men's lower perceived suitability. This research provides support for the reasoning that persisting gender stereotypes can hinder men's entry into childcare work, as people discount men's competence and ability to care for children. Moreover, this research suggests that incongruity theories are also valid in the context of men pursuing traditionally female-dominated communal roles. Practical implications are discussed in relation to strategies for increasing gender diversity in childcare work.
Haines, S., Nater, C., & Sczesny, S. (under review). How to best encourage men to care? An integrative review and recommendations for men’s sustainable representation in care-oriented careers.
Schmader, T., & Nater, C. (2024) Gender. In D. Gilbert, S. T. Fiske, E. Finkel, W. B. Mendes (Eds), The Handbook of Social Psychology. Princeton, N. J.: Princeton University Library
Gender is a salient social category used to make sense of others and ourselves. This chapter provides a synthesis of current social psychological research, with connections to relevant work in related fields, on gender and gender-based disparities. Throughout this summary, consideration of diverse and intersecting gender identities and how views on gender and gender equality change across time and culture are weaved in. The chapter consists of six main sections. The first section discusses why gender is a social category that is unique in several ways and offers definitions that distinguish between gender and related constructs. The second section continues with a review of research on gender differences and similarities and a consideration of biological and historical perspectives that contribute to present-day gender segregation into different roles, occupations, and positions of status. The subsequent section reviews how these disparities are encoded into cultural stereotypes that both describe and justify a gendered status hierarchy. Subsequently, as cultural constructs, these gender stereotypes can be internalized into the self, depending in part on the early development of one’s own gender identity. The chapter then includes a review of research on gender-based prejudice, with a specific focus on how prejudice maintains gender conformity and the degree to which sexism varies across time and culture. The next section summarizes how research on gender stereotyping and prejudice informs our understanding of how bias and discrimination not only unfold through interpersonal processes and can be embedded in systems and environments. Finally, the last section concludes with a consideration of how social psychological research informs and is informed by ongoing societal efforts toward gender equality and the need for broad cross-gender support toward these efforts.
Malayeri, S., Nater, C., Krahé, B., Sczesny, S. (2022). Sexual aggression among women and men in an Iranian sample: Prevalence and correlates. Sex Roles, 87, 139-153. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-022-01312-2
This pre-registered study examined the prevalence and correlates of sexual aggression in a sample of 530 Iranians (322 women, 208 men) with a behaviorally specific questionnaire distinguishing between different coercive strategies, victim-perpetrator relationships, and sexual acts. Significantly more women (63.0%) than men (51.0%) experienced at least one incident of sexual aggression victimization since the age of 15 years, and significantly more men (37.0%) than women (13.4%) reported at least one incident of sexual aggression perpetration. In women and men, the experience of child sexual abuse predicted sexual victimization and sexual aggression perpetration after the age of 15 years, both directly and indirectly through higher engagement in risky sexual behavior. Greater endorsement of hostile masculinity among men explained additional variance in the prediction of sexual aggression perpetration. This research is a first step towards documenting and explaining high rates of sexual aggression victimization and perpetration among Iranian women and men, providing important information for sex education as well for the prevention of sexual aggression. However, to achieve these goals, we highlight the need for systematic actions in all educational, social, and legal sectors of Iranian society.
Malayeri, S., Nater, C., Krahé, B., Sczesny, S. (revise and resubmit). Married or on a Date: Cultural Norms and Gender Differences in Rape Perception in an Iranian Sample.
This research examined how women and men in an Iranian sample perceived a heterosexual rape encounter depending on the relationship between the victim and perpetrator (married vs. dating). In Iran, the legal structures do not criminalize marital rape, whereas they criminalize extra-marital sex among dating adults. Participants (525; 321 women) were randomly assigned to read a vignette describing a date rape or marital rape and indicated victim blaming, judgement of the incident as rape, and punishment attribution to the perpetrator. Both women and men attributed higher blame to the married victim and were less certain to judge the marital encounter as rape, with larger differences between conditions for men than for women. Greater endorsement of honour norms and religious fundamentalism—both central socio-cultural norms in Iran—predicted higher victim blaming, lower likelihood to judge the incident as rape, and less severe punishment of the perpetrator. Endorsement of these norms were more predictive of lower rape judgement and perpetrator punishment in the marital rape than in the date rape encounter. The discussion addresses implications for understanding perceptions of rape against the background of socio-cultural norms in Islamic societies such as Iran and the contribution of the findings to the international evidence on victim blaming in rape cases. It also highlights the need for legal reform acknowledging rape as a serious violation of women’s rights across different victim-perpetrator constellations.
Dorrough, A. R.*, Nater, C.*, Miller, D. I., Eagly, A. H., Greitemeyer, T. & Kastenmüller A. (under review). Exposure to Misogynous Media Relates to Greater Hostility Toward Women: A Meta-Analysis of 227 Studies